It's Pokémon Day! 25 years of challenges, trading cards and Pokéballs

It's Pokémon Day! 25 years of challenges, trading cards and Pokéballs

It's Pokémon Day! 25 years of challenges

On February 27, 1996, Pokémon first appeared on Game Boy screens in two versions of Green and Red. The following year, "tough, irrepressible and different", appeared on world televisions, arriving in Italy in 2000. The immortal Ash Ketchum of the city of Pallet began his ten-year journey with Pikachu, the pocket monster par excellence, and with his baseball cap he stole the show from the quieter Red, the protagonist of the videogame counterpart.

They said 'Gotta catch'em all', when there were still 151 Pokémon. In 25 years and eight generations, catch them all it has become even more complex. Today there are 898 Pokémon (plus alternative forms), from Sword and Shield not all within reach of a Pokéball. With a starting base of this numerical scale, not only have the releases of the main series been relatively frequent, but the spin offs are of all kinds, from pinball to dungeon crawler, from fighting to puzzle. A sign that the history of Satoshi Tajiri's creatures is really long and full of moments that have marked the videogame industry, for better or for worse.

The choice of the starter is always a delicate moment. At the origins, for example, they gave the green light to a market trend dear to Nintendo and suggested by Shigeru Miyamoto: the dual distribution, of the same game with some variations, which to date has affected sagas such as Fire Emblem, Inazuma Eleven, Yokai Watch, Digimon Dusk / Dawn and Megaman Battle Network. More recently, however, the global success of Pokémon Go, which was able to reshape the habits of thousands of players (occasional and not), to give a hand to Google's data collection and to drive the sale of power banks.

The fame of Pocket Monsters, however, touches the hearts of players, not just the market. In the face of boundless merchandising, Pokémon does involve children, but also the most adults. Those who have been with these creatures for years have often done so due to the complexity of the competitive environment. The strategic formula proposed by the series is fertile after all: there are role-playing statistics, altered statuses, types of techniques and Pokémon in opposition, more or less effective sub-mechanics such as the environmental changes of the arena and the use of equipment.

Watch on YouTube. Twitch is a valid compass for probing, even if only superficially, the extent of the franchise's current success. That chaotic social experiment called Twitch Plays Pokémon dates back to 2014, one of the most curious moments in the history of the live streaming platform and one of the formats that still show its potential today. Pokémon is more generally a cornerstone of the streamer offer: it is a guarantee of entertainment, bright colors and in some respects endless nostalgia. Between March 2020 and January 2021, the spectators of the Pokémon Trading Card Game category increased by 3000%, thanks to the fascination of collectible cards and unpacking.

Collecting, after all, is the roaring engine of Pokémon. In fact, in Tajiri's intentions, the game was a way to transport his passion for catching insects to an increasingly urbanized society, where it was more and more frequent to spend an afternoon at home rather than in the countryside. Designed by Ken Sugimori, the Pokémon were not only very different from each other, they could also be exchanged between friends and could fight.

Game Freak worked on Pokémon Red and Green for six years, with only nine employees, risking bankruptcy. Blu was a special edition that came out at the end of 1996, and as a more refined title it was used for the American adaptations. A gaming aura of secondary importance hovered around the project, unthinkable today, until success in Japan came unexpectedly. At that point, to replicate it in the West, it became clear the need to devise a more substantial and viral marketing project.

Pokémon Yellow is the version of the original game that is most influenced by the anime, not a chance is the foundation of the Let's Go Eevee and Pikachu remakes. An example that demonstrates how important Pokémon became to Nintendo, like Mario (and certainly more so than Zelda and Metroid), is Pokémon Snap from 1999, which was not originally supposed to be a Pokémon game at all. A process similar to the one we had with Doki Doki Panic, which became Super Mario Bros 2. Snap is a photo-oriented video game, whose new chapter will arrive on April 30: it could be considered a FPS on rail, sweetened, where instead of headshots you need take pictures of the funny monsters of the first generation.

Today, after the criticisms that have hit Game Freak because of the reduced Pokédex, and which have also highlighted some ingenuity of the team in terms of programming, the revenge is expected thanks to new major titles, remakes or not. But all around, the series is more alive than ever. The film Detective Pikachu, after the homonymous title for 3DS passed on the sly, had a resounding success and is among the films based on a video game that has grossed the most at the box office, along with Warcraft. There is talk of over 400 million dollars. A sequel, by the way, is in the works.

Among the spin-offs, Mystery Dungeon had its first remake in 2020, with Rescue Team DX. It is accompanied by the inevitable Go, which has adapted to the Covid emergency by moving the distribution of many Pokémon to domestic habitats. There are also several mobile titles such as Pokémon Rumble Rush, a hack 'n' slash, and Pokémon Masters EX, a gacha twist of what the historical counterpart offers, with many Pokémon to evolve and upgrade. There is no shortage of clones and derivations, such as the Chinese TemTem or the Pixelmon and Pocket Souls mods, respectively for Minecraft and Dark Souls.

Fire Red and Leaf Green, released in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance, are the first remake of Rosso and Verde. Most Read Now

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What does the future hold for the series? Surely, Nintendo and The Pokèmon Company will try to reach as wide an audience as possible, not surprisingly the recent simplifications of Let's Go Eevee and Pikachu. But in addition to the pure and simple, accessible fun titles, the current success of the card game (whose latest expansion is Shining Destiny) is a clue as to what the toughest players expect: yes variety, yes collection of colorful creatures, but also a greater focus on a predominantly strategic type of game.

In 25 years, Pokémon have been of all shapes, sizes and types. Evanescent ghosts in Lavender Town, frightening wingspan pigeons, masses of rock and fire, flame-breathing dragons, electric rats and sentient magnets. They have been talking cats, or mimes without the gift of speech. Divinity able to play with time and space, or artificial creations due to man's greed. Funny chandeliers, giant whales capable of causing tsunamis, turtles and snakes. But above all, these small clusters of code, for many have been companions of thousands of clashes and adventures.

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